Today, in between our circle and our explore time, we held a fire drill. We explained that we were pretending we couldn’t safely go out the door, so we would need to crawl out the big window in the play room. We explained that this was just for practice and we were not really in any danger. CS, however, still became quite upset–both about the thought of fire and probably also about this novel change in our routine. She and I went out the door and walked around to the side window so we could watch the other children climb out and gather together with the group in the driveway.
After we counted to be sure everyone was safe, a group went back inside with Sarah Lu for a clay appointment. And I stayed outside with CS and others. She stayed close by my side and eventually turned to me and asked for what she needed, “Can we talk about what we just did?” I explained the purpose of a fire drill again and then she began to tell a story about how we could climb out the window of LG’s house if we couldn’t get out the preschool windows. I listened to this story. She wrapped it up with everyone safely outside and the arrival of firefighters and then asked to tell another story, this time I wrote it down:
Once upon a time there was a little house with three bears eating porridge. A little girl came. She was a fire fighter. And there was a fire and the three bears’ house. So she had a fire extinguisher, so she took out the fire and bringed it home to her house and put it in the garbage. She had a special garbage can. And she stole the fire that was on the window and she took it home and put it in the garbage. And she went back home to her own home. And then she went to the store to get a new fire extinguisher. And then she took it home in the little bag in her bike stuck on there. And then she had a little elephant that didn’t bite anyone. A little elephant named Ickit. And then she went to the park and swinged on the swings. Her mama was there because she was a little firemen.
Then she asked, “Can I go play now?” And ran over to the geodome to swing on the rope swings.
And I sat back marveling over the power of story telling and the power of young children to re-frame a frightening experience into one in which they are the capable protagonists who save the day. At one o’clock pick-up we acted out the day’s stories, CS chose the role of the young girl fire fighter. At the end of the play she was jumping up and down with a big smile on her face. Experience processed and equilibrium restored.